Field Report from Kentucky Labor Convention

Karissa Gerhke here, Director of Member Engagement with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. Last week, I joined labor unions and organizational partners at the Kentucky Labor Federation’s Biennial Convention. We discussed work we’ve accomplished, as well as upcoming plans to build progressive power in 2014.

The energy at the convention was invigorating. I was able to reconnect with AFGE members we worked with during the government shutdown – census workers like Jeremy Lannan who is thrilled to be back to work but ready to organize against those that caused the shutdown.

I met folks like Will Emmons and Tyler Simonds, two young activists working to organize a workers’ collective in Lexington, and Clifton Gardner – a retired UMWA miner who was happy about the UMWA’s recent win against Peabody Coal but is tired of Democratic candidates who don’t stand up for working class folks.

The air in the convention hall was electric with buzz about the 2014 election. For the first time in years, it looks like Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell could lose his seat in 2014, and Kentucky labor is eager to seize this opportunity.

The McConnell election is only half the story though. Kentucky is the last southern state where Democrats hold the majority at the state level – and they retain it by a slim margin. Union members are afraid (for good reason) of a Republican majority in the State House. It would likely lead to destructive policies like right to work legislation and restrictive voter ID laws. If Kentucky is going to retain their Democratic majority, it will be crucial to recruit bold, exciting candidates that actually represent working families of Kentucky.

One recurring theme throughout the convention was that there aren’t enough people running for office who represent the interests of everyday working families. As Clifton put it, “it’s hard to ask your friends to knock on doors for another election after those you helped get elected last time let you down.” Kentuckians aren’t alone in this thinking. We’ve encountered this problem in states throughout the country – from Wisconsin to North Carolina.

We need more progressives running for office. We need candidates who will stand up for working folks like Clifton Gardner. That’s why we’ve developed materials – such as website tools and handbooks – to equip normal people with the nuts and bolts of how to run for office.

And we aren’t just supporting candidates, but staff too. We’re hosting P100 field and finance trainings across the country to train the next wave of progressive campaigners. In a few short weeks, our finance training is coming to Louisville. Are you ready to elect the next wave of progressives in Kentucky? Click here today to apply for a P100 training!

Class photo from the October 2013 Louisville, Kentucky P100 Training: